Last week’s Zwift update included an unexpected change affecting racers: Zwift has “rebalanced” most of their powerups, modifying them in various ways to make them more “meaningful” and “useful strategically.“
As of early Friday afternoon (May 5), Zwift HQ says the rebalanced powerups are live for everyone.
Let’s dig into what changed, and how these changes will affect the race experience.
“Increased duration from 30 to 40 seconds and the draft effect will be stronger.”
This seems like a sensible change, since the Draft Truck feels “weakened” with the recent rollout of Pack Dynamics 4 (PD4) and its increased draft effect.
This change should make the Draft Truck’s effect more noticeable, providing more respite when riding in the pack or sitting on a wheel in the breakaway.
Reminder: the draft truck only boosts whatever draft you’re receiving, so if you’re in the wind at the front of a group or riding solo, this powerup has no effect.
“Increased duration from 15 to 30 seconds.”
Doubling its duration doubles its effectiveness, making the Feather a much more potent tool when attacking (or just trying to survive!) on climbs.
“Reduced duration to 15 seconds. Changed the weight addition to be a percentage of rider weight instead of a fixed 50kg in an effort to make it more useful for all riders, with an emphasis on lighter riders. The percentage of weight is not fixed, and is instead derived from a formula that will make it unique to every rider while still providing a useful benefit for riders of all weights.”
This is one of the more complex changes in Zwift’s powerup rebalancing act, but it is a smart change as well. Lighter riders have consistently complained that the old Anvil (which simply added 50kg to your weight) gave too much advantage to heavier riders who already have an advantage on descents.
(This is analogous to how heavier riders complained that the Feather gave too much advantage to lighter riders – before the Feather was modified in 2020.)
The new Anvil adds a percentage of your body weight on descents, but that percentage increases significantly as riders get lighter. We ran a few tests to accurately chart this sliding scale for you, dear reader. Here are the results…
Chart by Visualizer
If you crunch the numbers in the chart a bit, you can see that a 50kg rider will get a 40kg Anvil (80% of their weight), while a 100kg rider will get a 22.6kg Anvil (22.6% of their weight).
The previous Anvil weighed 50kg regardless of rider weight, and lasted for 30 seconds. Clearly these rebalanced Anvils will be much less powerful than the previous Anvils, since they last half as long and are much lighter!
But perhaps talking about how “powerful” the Anvil is overall is the wrong approach. The better question: how does the new Anvil affect descent speeds for riders of varying weights?
It’s hard to say exactly, but on our Alpe du Zwift descent tests we estimated that 1kg of additional weight made you 1 second faster over the ~10-minute descent. Converting that to speed and using our numbers above, we can see that with the old Anvil (or no Anvil at all), the 40kg rider would have been 6.7kph slower than the 100kg rider on a descent of Alpe du Zwift. With the new Anvil, the 40kg rider is now only 3.7kph slower.
So heavier riders still have an advantage on descents, but the new Anvil reduces that advantage.
“Increased duration from 10 to 20 seconds. Changed the behavior to only remove drafting from riders in a cone behind the rider instead of in a radius. The rider using the Burrito will still be able to draft other riders in front of them.”
The Burrito was, arguably, the powerup that most urgently needed “fixing”. After we documented how it really worked back in February, racers began pulling out pitchforks whenever they saw others using the Burrito, because it was clearly being used in ignorance much of the time. We even memed the Burrito’s uselessness as recently as last week…
Zwift’s change this week makes the Burrito work exactly as it should. No longer does it take away the draft you are receiving, and no longer does it take away the draft of riders just ahead of you, which could cause them to be gapped (and thus, you to be gapped as well). It still helps you try for the solo breakaway, without making the peloton a miserable place.
Here’s a graphic showing how the old Burrito functioned vs the new Burrito. (Note that this is for illustrative purposes only – the Burrito’s “effectiveness window” is not precisely sized.)
It’s worth noting that the Burrito’s duration has been doubled, meaning this is a very punishing powerup if you cannot move yourself out of the draftless window!
“Increased duration from 10 to 15 seconds. It is no longer possible to use this PowerUp when the rider is less than 400m from the finish line.”
The ghost and its invisibility/cloaking power always had a lot of potential. The problem was, it was so short-lived it was hard to use effectively in a race.
Zwift’s change makes the ghost last a bit longer, so you can get a bigger gap on the group you’re attacking. And because it lasts longer Zwift, had to change its finish line restriction from 200m to 400m. (This ensures you don’t cross the line thinking you’re first, when someone with a ghost invisibly beat you.)
Neither of these powerups were changed in this rebalancing.
“Removed from all competitive events by default. Event Organizers can still have XP PowerUps appear in their event by request.”
This is a welcome change, because few things in Zwift racing are as annoying as receiving a tiny XP bonus instead of a useful powerup in a race!
For more details on these rebalanced powerups, including an FAQ, see this forum topic. You can also share feedback on powerups with Zwift staffers on that thread.
What do you think of the rebalanced powerups? Share below!